When you think about it, life can be a scary experience. And I’m not even talking about the really scary events; like doing a parachute jump, or going pot-holing, or meeting a huge crab half way up the steps to the spa (in my defence it was very dark, the crab really was massive and no-one had told me they don’t all live in the sea!).
But for some of us, we have to face something that pushes us out of our comfort zone almost every single day. It might be making a presentation to colleagues at work, or squashing ourselves onto packed public transport, removing a new arachnid resident from under the sofa, or even stepping onto a yoga mat.
The really interesting thing about fear is that it is such a personal experience. By its very nature, it is usually based on an irrational response which even you, the person holding it, can see. I’ll give you an example; I am scared of boats. Whether they’re the size of the Titanic (you can tell from the example I’ve chosen I don’t feel overly positive about them), or a teeny tiny dingy, as far as I’m concerned as soon as I set foot on one it’s only purpose in life will be to sink as quickly as possible, taking me down with it.
Even I know that on the law of averages, this is extremely unlikely. I know that there are more than a couple of boat excursions going out and about from around here every single day; returning all passengers in the one piece that they set out in. I don’t even have to go any further than our own Cariblue beach to see this with my own eyes.
To be honest, it wasn’t really an issue before I moved to St. Lucia. Gloucestershire isn’t exactly known for its nautical opportunities or the chance to live life on the ocean wave. But now that I am living on a Caribbean island, I’m starting to get a bit irked with it. There’s the Sunset Cruise, for a start. Every Friday evening we take returning guests off on a rather splendid Catamaran to see the island, and the resort, from a whole new point of view. Then there’s the boat trip to go and spot whales and dolphins (Flipper! Flipper!). And wouldn’t it be amazing to go snorkelling in a secluded bay, coming face-to-gills with a real life Nemo?
So it would seem that so far, whilst my fear likes to give me the impression that it’s doing me a favour (“Oooh no don’t get on the boat. Listen to me; I’m here to keep you alive, silly!) it’s actually just serving to keep me missing what could be a whole lot of fun.
But what my fear has helped me to understand is that there are people who think of coming to yoga in a very similar way as I do of my boats. I’ll admit that the chances of drowning are considerably less, and I hope that no one feels nauseous, but the feeling is exactly the same.
They have probably only listened to the stories of people having a go at a yoga class and either finding it really hard or, at the other end of the scale, getting nothing out of it at all. Perhaps they’ve got a friend (of a friend) who went to a class, had a bad adjustment by a teacher and was off work for a week. Quite often their fear is based around the feeling that they would be ‘bad’ at it (“Oooh no don’t get on the yoga mat. You can’t even touch your toes. You’ll be bad at it. Listen to me; I’m here to keep you alive, silly!”)
Sometimes the only way to slip under the radar of that little voice is to take it by surprise. Last week, due to a slight mix-up with timetables, two ladies came to my ‘Dancing Warrior’ class (a slightly more challenging vinyasa flow session) by mistake, thinking it was a beginner’s class. They only told me this at the end of the lesson, when they came up to me beaming from ear to ear. They explained that they would have never had the courage to come, believing that it would have been far too difficult for them. As it turned out, they had a wonderful time (releasing their ‘Wild Thing’ as if they’d done it a hundred times before!) and loved every minute of it.
I think it’s safe to say that I’m not going to be the next Ellen MacArthur, just like the folks who take their first step onto a yoga mat might not be the next David Swenson or Shiva Rea. But who knows what potential we are denying ourselves by listening to the voice that says “oooh no” instead of the voice that says “ooooh – YES!”?